While I’ve not been writing about the game much, I still play at least once per week on my own game and usually once per week in a cooperative game session with my son. I’m at what could be considered the “late” stage of the game, having sent off the third big Space Elevator shipment and unlocking access to the aluminum and nuclear tiers.

This is where things go from “moderately complex” to “rather fiendishly complex,” and the scale gets to the point where you can’t simply expect to make a variety of products from one resource node, let alone one group of resource nodes.

Case in point? Crystal Oscillators.

So much work, so much time, for a couple of little odd-looking devices every couple of minutes per manufacturer.

I set out to make several Crystal Oscillators per minute. Fewer than ten! This doesn’t seem terribly ambitious until you realize what’s involved:

  • You need Quartz Crystals, which are made from Raw Quartz.
  • You need Cables, which are made from Wires, which are made from Copper Ingots, which are made from raw Copper Ore.
  • You need Reinforced Iron Plates, which are made from Iron Plates, which are made from Iron Ingots, which are made from raw Iron Ore… as well as from Screws, which are (thanks to an alternate recipe I found at a crashed supply pod site) made from Iron Ingots, etc. (Without the alternate recipe I’d have to use Iron Ingots to make Iron Rods to make Screws to merge with the Iron Plates to make the Reinforced Iron Plates. Cutting out an entire layer of the process grants a huge space & time savings.)

Using the Pure variety of resource node (as the game provides resources from nodes of three quantity/quality levels, from Impure to Normal to Pure), it takes nearly the entire output of a quartz node, a copper node, and an iron node to get you 8 Crystal Oscillators per minute. And, of course, you have to run all of that material through the above laundry-list of processes, which takes a lot of machinery, which takes a lot of space and time to build.

The game map, which is fixed and unchanging and the same for every player, only provides a specific number of each type & purity of node. Eventually it’s possible to just plain run out of nodes to build on, which means as you build more and more stuff you’re going to be siting facilities all over the available map space. (The nodes don’t run out of material, at least.)

I’ll show you what was involved, and how I spent most of the last few weeks of game time. First up? The quartz.

This was the easiest part, so of course it’s where I started. Mind you, this was also the item which required the longest transportation chain…

I needed one miner, seven constructors, and a long string of conveyor belt segments to route the output over to my Crystal Oscillator factory since even the closest quartz node is still a minute’s hike away from where I need the materials.

How about the copper products?

The miner is in back and below the row of smelters which are feeding the Wires constructors in the foreground.

The resource nodes for copper and iron are close together and reasonably nearby the intended factory location. It wasn’t challenging to deal with, just time-consuming. Also, the copper node is in a narrow spot between hills and right next to a high cliff edge. This forces one to build the processing facility rather carefully.

It takes twice as many Wires to make a given amount of Cables. At least this means that the Cables portion of the factory is fairly small.

I have a lot of practice with copper products, so I saved this bit for last in my actual build process. Now we’re ready to talk about the iron works.

On the right, an iron mine and all the smelters it can supply. On the left and in the back, I’m making Concrete. Because you can literally never go wrong making sure you have a ready supply of Concrete.

There are four iron nodes in a confined space, and I’ll probably regret building any smelters there at all in the long run but for now it’ll be okay. The important thing is to get those ingots conveyed elsewhere for turning into all the things that make “RIPs” (Reinforced Iron Plates) happen.

I may yet try to make that conveyor belt inlet a bit neater. It’s odd, the things that bother me enough to go back and fix, and the things I can totally ignore.

Because the Iron Plates and the Screws both take the same input material, I just lined the relevant equipment all up in one row, then routed the outputs accordingly.

The annoying thing about manufacturers is they have four inputs all close together on the same side, requiring ridiculous feeder belt placement. This manifold looks silly, but a load-balanced setup would look even worse.

Then the Iron Plates and Screws go to a separate smaller part of the building where the RIPs are made. Those are sent up to the roof where all the mighty, gigantic manufacturer devices live. (I didn’t even want to bother trying to surround them with walls and windows. That’s way too much work.)

I considered using one of the shots I took at night with those big overhead light fixtures glaring, but while they looked dramatic and highlighted the manifold system well, the lighting was just too garish. So you get this sunset view instead.

And all of that… all of that… I completed just so I can then turn around and build another facility to use the Crystal Oscillators (and a couple other ingredients) to make Radio Control Units, which is what I need in order to unlock access to building Drones.

So if you’re wondering why I’ve been droning on… it’s all for the cause of getting my hands on drones.